Breathtaking, simply breathtaking movie: Shadow

From the moment I saw the trailer on the big screen I knew I would pay the exorbitant parking fees to go see it in the downtown Chicago theater (it’s in a very limited release, unfortunately). Shadow, the most recent work from Zhang Yimou, is one of the most visually stimulating movies I’ve seen in recent years.

There is nothing to fault in this movie; story, cast, costume, set direction, cinematography, fight sequences, soundtrack… it has it all.

The plot seems straightforward; a worthy general has taken the drastic step of challenging the general who represents an “allied” (usurping) kingdom that is holding the principal city of his king. This act has potentially serious consequences and sets in motion a number of plots and devices. There’s more to the story that the superficial political moves; the general is more than he seems to be. His story unfolds in a non-linear narrative, contrasting to the more straightforward conflict. He is the “shadow” of another, chosen in boyhood for his resemblance to another, trained to be his double and protect him from potential assassination and other threats. Deng Chao plays both characters and is so convincing that it seems that another actor plays his genuine alter-ego.

The one who must tread carefully between the two (especially now that her real husband is ill and cannot be seen publicly) is the real general’s wife, played by Sun Li. The above image would imply that she is emotionally close to the imposter, but the relationships are not so transparent. You could say that they’re as cloudy as the inky character banners, ink-wash drawings, and swirling layers of silken robes that provide the visual texture to every scene. And let’s not forget the rain… constant rain which plays its own role in the story.

The fight choreography is beautiful as well, especially the sequence in which Sun Li’s character tells her husband that she thinks that she can adapt his moves to find a way to defeat the opposing general’s deadly techniques. The others involve the use of the “umbrella” weapons; when unleashed en masse they made me gasp aloud in the theater!

Those of you who’ve seen Ever Night will recognize General Yang; it’s Hu Jun again as an imposing and difficult to beat fighter. And lovers of Nirvana in Fire will be surprised to see impertinent little Fei Liu now the muscular youth, the son of General Yang. Wu Lei has grown!

Official Synopsis:

With SHADOW, director Zhang Yimou (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) once again pushes the boundaries of wuxia action to create a film like no other, masterfully painting a canvas of inky blacks and greys punctuated with bursts of color from the blood of the defeated. In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.

#dong-chao, #guan-xiaotong, #hu-jun, #leo-wu, #shadow, #sun-li, #wang-jingchun, #wang-qianyuan, #wu-lei, #zhang-yimou, #zheng-kai

While on a movie binge I saw this trailer for “Shadow”

This looks amazing, especially on the big screen, and I can’t wait to see the whole thing. And for those watching Ever Night, you might recognize the general with the smirk, Hu Jun!

More on the movies seen soon 😊

#deng-chao, #hu-jun, #shadow, #sun-li

I’ve fallen down the “Ever Night” rabbit hole

The bags under my eyes are starting to resemble those of veteran actor Ni Dahong!

I’m up to episode 45 (of 60, not 75, it turns out) of Ever Night and my imagination is too filled with it to stop watching at a sensible hour. (By the way, if he looks familiar, he was the Emperor in Rise of the Phoenixes.)

More (non-spoilery) after the break.

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#arthur-chen, #chen-fei-yu, #chin-shih-chieh, #ever-night, #leon-lai, #marco-chen, #ni-dahong, #shi-shi, #song-yi-ren, #tong-yao

Yes, I started (another) new drama – Ever Night

What is it that’s keeping me from finishing Nirvana in Fire 2? Why am I starting other dramas in its place? I don’t know, but I know that I liked the first 5 episodes of Ever Night, with its extensive huge cast, and two very young leads, Arthur Chen and Song Yi Ren.

The choice of Chen came under scrutiny even before the show aired as his prior experience was a film role in a movie directed by his famous director father, Chen Kaige, plus he was just about 18 at the time of filming, but so far his youthful brashness works. This is also a “part one” and in the second part his character will be played by an older actor. Song Yi Ren is his perfect petite sidekick.

It’s going to be 75 episodes of battles, scheming, special effects, wuxia, and me trying to remember who’s who for the next few episodes, but I like what I’ve seen.

The plot is complex, but in a nutshell, he’s the survivor of a plot where a general (his father?) was killed and he’s playing the long game for getting revenge. He found her as a baby, the apparent survivor of another slaughter. There’s a big bad event coming, the “ever night,” thanks to the King of Hades and it’s bad for humans and somehow she’s at the crux of the matter.

Oh, and before I forget… I kept thinking that they spent a lot of money on getting a big name star for one character, the Princess of the Tang Emperor. She looks so much like Zhang Zhiyi, but it’s Tong Yao. Judge for yourself; google both and compare!

#arthur-chen, #chen-fei-yu, #ever-night, #leon-lai, #song-yi-ren, #tong-yao

May I Blackmail You? – Series Impressions

While maybe not as compelling as my other recent ventures into the J-dorama pool from Nippon TV, this tale of a blackmailer who (generally) helps victims get even with their oppressors is worth a look, and not just to admire Dean Fujioka’s impressive dark eyelashes and anime hero good looks.

More after the break (not spoiler-y) Continue reading

#dean-fujioka, #ima-kara-wo-kyohaku-shimasu, #may-i-blackmail-you, #takei-emi

Still on my Japanese drama kick…

Even though I’m working my way (albeit slowly) through other dramas (Memories of the Alhambra, are your ears burning?), I find myself checking out more of the Nippon TV offerings on Viki, namely Kahogo no Kahoko or Overprotected Kahoko and Ima kara Anata wo kyo haku shimasu or May I Blackmail You?

More after the break (no spoilers)

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#dean-fujioka, #ima-kara-wo-kyohaku-shimasu, #kahogo-no-kahoko, #kuroki-hitomi, #may-i-blackmail-you, #overprotected-kahoko, #takahata-mitsuki, #takei-emi, #takeuchi-ryoma, #tokito-saburo

In case you’re tempted to watch Here to Heart

I think it’s good to go into it knowing that you will need to fast-forward, you will gnash your teeth at the repetitive plot that keeps the leads apart, you will want to slap the well-meaning family and friends who act thinking that they are doing the best for their loved one even though it means you’ll be fast-forwarding even more, you must recognize that there are lots of things that keep the lead couple off-screen more than should be allowed in any drama (hence the fast-forwarding), even though there are some respectable performances by most of the male supporting characters. It’s not for nothing that some people have complained that Hans Zheng and Janine Chang are almost like guest actors in their own drama… But at the very end of it all… well, you can tune in for my rant after the jump at the bottom of the post!

Janine and Hans are trying to figure out why they can’t just be together

Even with all this complaining, there really were some entertaining moments in this drama. I think that’s what irritates me most — they could have had something solid, even very good, if they had just gotten out the scissors and cut this 48-episode show into, maybe 24… tops! Even though there are some personal space issues between between Hans Zheng’s spurned boyfriend/CEO and Janine Chang, the spurner (for good reasons)/his assistant, there are some moments where they work really well together, and separately. He’s got the driven, ruthless, yet tender-hearted thing down, and she’s very good at fragile-looking but strong. There’s some deep sh#t that’s kept them apart, and on paper it makes sense that she would find it very hard for her to believe that they should be back together again (no matter how much they long for each other).

I found the interferences of her guy pal and her older sister the most annoying, less so on his part, much more so on her part because this is ALL HER FAULT in the first place! She’s so immature at times, and needy, that I’d like to reach through the screen and slap her. Who she ends up with (and how) is somehow so appropriate, but yet it feels wrong, mostly because of the casting of her love interest. I do feel bad for Jing Chao’s character, the wish-he-could-be-boyfriend friendzoned pal. Maybe because he’s easy on the eyes… No, because he is trying really hard to be a good guy, even if he does cock things up now and then.

But what irritates me… spoiler rant after the jump

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#hans-zheng, #here-to-heart, #janine-chang, #jing-chao, #series-review